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Data centre infrastructure sustainability in the spotlight
Tue, 2nd May 2023

Seventy-five percent of organisations will have implemented a data centre infrastructure sustainability program driven by cost optimisation and stakeholder pressures by 2027, up from less than 5% in 2022, according to Gartner.

“Responsibilities for sustainability are increasingly being passed down from CIOs to infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders to improve IT’s environmental performance, particularly around data centres,” says Autumn Stanish, Senior Principal Analyst at Gartner. 

“This has led many down the path of greater spend and investment in environmental solutions, but environmental impact shouldn’t be the only focus. 

"Sustainability can also have a significant positive impact on non-environmental factors, such as brand, innovation, resilience and attracting talent.”

According to a Gartner survey of 221 respondents from North America, Europe and APAC conducted in the second half of 2022, environmental performance of IT infrastructure is only one facet of a strong I&O sustainability strategy, with most sustainability benefits being indirect.

“Success in aligning the I&O strategy with critical business outcomes requires a more comprehensive approach that recognises the indirect benefits that come with sustainable IT operations,” says Stanish. 

“This is true specifically for organisations in which IT is material to the business, such as financial services.”

According to the Gartner survey, the top three indirect benefits include:

1. Reduced Costs
The most effective action I&O leaders can take for the environment and their budget is to defer purchasing new equipment and better manage, optimise or redeploy what they already have. According to Gartner, organisations can experience up to 60% in cost savings by simply extending product life spans from three to five years. In addition, optimising for better server utilisation and storage capacity is another way to reduce waste and save money.

2. Innovation
Organisations are using sustainable strategies to drive innovation and growth through new products and business models. Technology hardware vendors are rapidly releasing new products and services based on AI technology, analytics insights and circular business models that can be leveraged for innovation. For example, open telemetry platforms may be deployed to track and improve energy efficiency, while simultaneously offering critical insights for IT staff to understand usage patterns that can be optimised for greater, more consistent performance of systems.

“The core focus of many enterprises with a sustainability strategy is actually around how they can use it to drive innovation, differentiation and growth through new products and business models,” Stanish says. 

“However, fewer than half of I&O leaders we speak to are currently taking advantage of the business benefits beyond reduced energy costs.”

3. Better Risk Management and Mitigation
In a market disrupted by price fluctuations and supply constraints, organisations can achieve greater resilience and better risk management and mitigation by adopting sustainable recycling and resource utilisation practices. This includes organisations using renewable energy, generating their own power and reusing and redeploying equipment as much as possible.

According to the Gartner survey, more than 85% of business leaders agree that sustainability is an investment that protects the organisation from disruption.